Monday, 14 July 2014

Introducing you to ... Chris Kammerud

In our fourth post introducing you to the contributors of 'Dark Heart' Volume 2, it is our great pleasure to introduce you to Chris Kammerud, author of the beautifully creepy and ethereal story, 'Jjincha'.

    "Something stepped from the shadows. It was very tall and very thin. Something had arms that were a touch too long and a face that was very much like crumpled up newspaper. It drifted side to side in the wind like a stalk of rice.
     Something said, "Why are you here?"
    "My father told me a story about a monster that lived under a bridge. He said the monster could do things for people."
    "Your father knows true things then," Something said, "but everything has a cost. What is it you want?"

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a quarter Scandinavian. Also a feminist. I never put honey in my tea unless I am sick and then usually I also put a fistful of ginger because ginger is awesome. My sister and I more or less defeated The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past over the course of one rental weekend. I have seen every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer at least four times. I love cooking, particularly pancakes, muffins, and curries. If I eat gluten, my stomach frowns. My parents took me to see Return of the Jedi when I was three. I am told that during the credits I cried. I cried a lot as a child. Sometimes people call me pomegranate. I will not tell you why.

When did you start writing ‘seriously

I studied computer engineering for a long time. I even completed a Master’s degree. It never completely clicked with me, though. On the other hand, I’ve always loved stories. My childhood consisted, in large part, of reading and watching everything ever. I cried when Jim Henson died (see above re: crying). In regards to writing my own stories, though, while I remember writing at least one Walter Mitty story as a kid—and, also, there was a period in my late teens where I seriously wrote a lot of Star Wars fanfic at a site called Watto’s Junkyard—I never thought that being a writer was a possibility until I left the engineering track and attended the M.F.A. program at Ole Miss. Being surrounded by peopled dedicated to language and story, it clicked. Life seemed shinier. Everything seemed possible.

At the end of Cheers, the television series, one character says to another, “You always come back to your first love.”

That’s how I think about me and story.

What is the favourite thing you have ever written? Tell us a little about it.

When my father died a few years ago, I wrote his eulogy. I stayed awake all night before the funeral at my home—mostly sitting on the couch where I had watched the last episode of Cheers—writing and remembering until the sun came up. Then, I sat on the porch and listened to the robins, cardinals, and bluebirds. I read what I had written. I felt like my dad was there. That we were talking. I felt like magic was real.

That process of writing about my father, and then reading what I had written to a roomful of people who knew him at various points in his life, helped me understand something basic about stories—whether magical, mundane, fiction, non-fiction, silly, weird, whatever. Every story is an attempt to bring the dead to life.

Tell us a little about your book / series?

At present I’m working on a book set in a near-future Korea wherein there is romance, revolution, history, and K-pop. It centers on two characters, a boy in love with a former pop star who has mysteriously disappeared; and a woman who played a large role in the creation of a virtual idol who may or may not be sentient and possibly  upset about having her life controlled by a corporation.

Who is your inspiration?

Joss Whedon. Kelly Link. Ted Chiang. Douglas Adams. Barry Hannah. You. A large part of what inspires me to write is the thought that other people will read what I write and maybe connect to it in some way.

What are your hopes and ambitions for the future?

I want to write all the words.

What would be your advice to aspiring writers?

To paraphrase Neil Gaiman and shampoo bottles: Read. Write. Finish. Repeat.

Tell us a secret.

Buried somewhere in the backyard of my grandparents’ house, there is a Luke Skywalker action figure. I don’t remember where. I feel guilty about this.

DARK HEART VOLUME 2 is now available from and for Kindle. Paperbacks and other platforms will be available from August 1st.

Social links:


Sunday, 6 July 2014

Introducing you to ... Shauna Aura Knight

In our third post, introducing you to our Dark Heart Volume 2 Authors & Poets, it is our great privilege to introduce you to the author and poet Shauna Aura Knight, and her poetry piece, 'Snow White Shatterglass.'

Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m an artist, writer, designer, event planner, and traveling teacher, so I’m a bit of a jack-of-many-trades. I’m almost always working on something creative. I often find there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do all the writing and artwork projects I have in mind. I also organize events for the Pagan/alternative spirituality community in Chicago, as well as travel and teach workshops for the broader Pagan community on topics like leadership, community building, how to facilitate workshops and rituals, and other metaphysical, esoteric, and personal growth topics.

I used to be a shy little wallflower, and now I find it amusing to be teaching workshops on public speaking and facilitation. Truthfully, I’m an introvert and I still have a lot of social anxiety, but I suppose that’s why I teach this stuff—if I can learn to do it, anyone can. I’m kind of a nerd for event planning, and I love planning conferences, concerts, and other events. I used to hang out with a bunch of Star Wars fans and we’d run room parties at Science Fiction conventions; I’d orchestrate decorating the room like a scene from one of the movies, so I’ve built a life-size Jabba the Hutt and a Carbonite Chamber.

There’s nothing I love more than getting all excited about a project, whether it’s a story, a painting, designing a magazine cover, organizing an event, building an outdoor shrine, or whatever crazy thing I’ve gotten myself immersed in.

When did you start writing ‘seriously’?
 I think I knew I wanted to be a fiction writer when I was about 12. I wrote thousands of pages in my teens and twenties. I took a bit of a writing hiatus in my early 30’s, at least, for fiction, but then I started getting published as an nonfiction author. I was just helping out writing articles for the Between the Worlds online magazine hosted by the retreat center I lived at, but after I started writing articles and blogging, I began submitting articles. I never expected to get published with my nonfiction first, but that inspired me to finish up some of my fiction and get that published, as well as to bring out some of my poetry. So—I’d say I’ve been writing seriously my whole life, but it’s only in the past several years that I’ve had articles and now books published.

What is your favourite thing you have written? Tell us a little about it.
 It’s so hard to choose. I’d say some of my favorite fiction that I’ve written isn’t yet published because it’s not quite finished cooking…that being said, I really like my most current fiction piece, The White Dress, the Autumn Leaves.

 It’s just coming out June 28th,  and while it has romantic content, it’s not a romance, it’s more of an urban fantasy. I don’t think I’m giving away much that you won’t figure out reading the first page of the story, but it’s a very tragic story. It was difficult to write a story that has erotic romantic content and is largely about Jack and Meredith falling in love, and yet, knowing that the story does not have the romantic happy ending. The story is just as much about them falling for each other as it is about Jack coming to terms with what happens. Meredith has prophetic dreams and dreams her own death, and ultimately, though Jack is a skeptic, he develops his own connection with that which lies beyond the veils between the worlds.

It’s my favorite published piece because—even though I do love writing the paranormal romance—this story has a lot more emotional depth to it. A lot of my forthcoming fantasy and urban fantasy has that kind of tragic edge to it.

Tell us a little about your book / series?

Right now I have a few romances out, Werewolves in the Kitchen and A Winter Knight’s Vigil, as well as the urban fantasy The White Dress, the Autumn Leaves.

 In the near future I have a vampire romance coming out, and as soon as I can actually make myself finish them, I’ll have more urban and epic fantasies. Right now my books aren’t a series, though I’m working up a series of stories that take place at the retreat center where Werewolves in the Kitchen takes place so there are definitely some series in my future. 

For my urban fantasy and paranormal romance, I love exploring magic in the modern world and what that looks like. My books tend to have erotic content, but especially with my fantasy works I like to work with that edge of tragedy. One of the things that has always called to me about the Hero’s Journey and the development of each person, each character, is how the tragedies and hardships we face define us.

My poem “Snow Queen’s Shatterglass” sums that up, I think—I’m kind of fascinated by broken mirrors. I think of people as broken mirrors; do we put the pieces together, or do they lay there on the ground?

Who is your inspiration?
I have a lot of inspirations, particularly authors. For fiction, I’d say Anne McCaffrey, particularly Sherrilyn Kenyon, Karen Marie Moning, Emma Holly, Janny Wurtz, Katherine Kurtz, Guy Gavriel Kay, and Mercedes Lackey. 

For nonfiction: Joseph Campbell, Carl Jung, Jean Shinoda Bolen, Jean Houston, Angeles Arrien, John and Caitlin Matthews, Robert Moss. But basically, any book on shamanism, facilitating rituals, sacred temples, trance work, leadership, experience design, usability, graphic design, sacred geometry, megaliths and archaeoastronomy, leadership, Celtic myth and legend, sacred symbolism, mythology, history, and the Grail Quest…it’s all stuff that I find inspiring.

What are your hopes and ambitions for the future?
 I’ve been writing and painting a lot this past year—and it’s really quite inspiring to actually create artwork and writing that people are enjoying, so I’m looking forward to painting and writing a lot more. 

I’d also love to delve back into some large creative projects, such as organizing conferences or large-scale art installations. Heck, I’d even love to design and create scenery for a themed Star Wars party again some day—I’ve kind of been itching to build another life-size Jabba the Hutt.

What would be your advice to aspiring writers?
Finish the piece. I’ve been writing for decades, but there’s a simple truth—you can’t submit your writing unless it’s done. The past year I’ve been a firestorm of finishing up half-finished poems and novels. You can’t send your work to a publisher if it isn’t done. And yeah—you’ll get rejection letters, but then you edit it again and send it out. You can’t do any of that til you finish the piece.

Tell us a secret.
 I teach classes on public speaking and other topics, which means—I do rather alot of public speaking. However, I'm actually really shy. I can be awkward in social settings—attending a “party” is my idea of a social nightmare. 

However, when I teach public speaking, I tell shy people all the time that, if I can do it, anybody can! I enjoy public speaking a lot. It just takes a lot out of me, and I'm still pretty shy at the core. I have a hard time making the first move to go introduce myself to someone at a social event, even when I'm the headline presenter at a conference or festival.

Shauna is passionate about creating rituals, experiences, spaces, stories, and artwork to awaken mythic imagination.